OUR HISTORY: Fenn gave much to community

Evidence of an old orchard, a shaded slope for games or picnics, and a variety of play equipment provide a quiet area for residents of an older residential neighbourhood at Third Avenue and Ryan Street to enjoy a spring outing.

The park is named after Walter Fenn, a frequent entrant in the annual Agricultural Fair. He entered flower, vegetable and fruit categories and consistently won prizes.

Fenn arrived in Mission from England in 1941 at the age of 11; his family settled first in the Cedar Valley area, and he attended Mission Senior High School. When he left school, his main interest was radio, and he took an electronics course in Vancouver, hoping to find work as a ship’s radio operator. Like many others, he found jobs hard to find in the 1930s, and returned home to Mission. He worked for 14 years for W. J. Windebank, first as an apprentice and later doing repairs.

He went into business for himself with one assistant, and years later moved across the street to the former Desbrisay Department Store building on Main Street (now First Avenue). The new store expanded to offer a complete line of furniture. Within a short time, he was hiring additional staff, including Jake Rempel for appliance and electrical installations, Fred Inglis as bookkeeper and appliance sales person, Jim Gruber, a television and radio technician, and Cece Rawlins for furniture and appliance sales.

Although known as a quiet and reserved man, Fenn contributed much to the community at All Saints’ Anglican Church. He was also on the board of the Agricultural Society, and at Mission Memorial Hospital.

Fenn Electric provided sales of furniture, appliances and repair services extending from Harrison Mills to Ruskin. He had a lot of confidence in Mission and felt local residents deserved diversified shopping facillties.

In a 1940 article in The Fraser Valley Record, he said, “We are very close to large centres of Vancouver and New Westminster; we feel that we are able to offer similar, and in most cases, the same merchandise at the same prices as Vancouver, and we are able to offer the additional feature of being on the spot to back up guarantees and warranties and do immediate servicing.”

The local chamber of commerce still promotes these sentiments.

Fenn Park may be known mostly to the families in the neighbourhood, but the park reminds us all to honour an early business and community leader. Walter Fenn passed away in 1956.

Sharon Syrette is writing a number of columns on Mission parks and trails history in recognition of BC Heritage Week’s theme of parks and nature preserves.

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